Congratulations! If you are reading this, then there’s a good chance you have chosen nursing as your intended profession. I am here to tell you that you are in store for a whole lot of smiles, sweat, tears, unforgettable moments and a profession that will continuously keep you on your toes. You will be there for people during their best and worst moments in life (I’ve only been in healthcare for a few years so that is saying a lot!). I am sure that you are feeling a bit nervous as you start on this new journey, but I want you to know that WE ALL HAVE BEEN THERE! Every single nurse, CNA, doctor, or anyone else who you may encounter in healthcare has started at the beginning — just like you. So whether you have years of previous medical experience under your belt or area a complete newbie, we all continue to learn new things every day. When I started nursing school, I remember having absolutely no clue about what to expect. My hope is these tips relieve some of those beginning jitters and help you feel a little less alone in this new world of nursing school.
Tip #1: Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Nursing school is about to take up so much of your time it isn’t even funny. It can be tough at first to establish a routine, but if there is one thing I can say to help you juggle all the madness it would be to map out every … little … thing. Your schedule will soon become your new bible and you must quickly learn how to keep track of exams, papers, clinical preparation worksheets and your sacred study time. At the beginning of each semester, sit down and record every lecture, exam, assignment, clinical, and whatever else may be on your schedule or planner. It’s important also to plan your study time. Other students and myself have found that giving yourself small, frequent, two-to-three hour study sessions rather than using a whole day attempting to cram everything you learned in, is much more helpful when preparing for exams. I’d recommend using a bit of time after each lecture to go through your notes, even if you are just rereading what you’ve just written. Find those study habits that work best for you and stick to them. Give yourself breaks when you’ve deserved them and try your best not to completely deprive yourself of sleep (If you didn’t like coffee before — trust me — you will.) As I know you’ve heard over and over again, nursing school takes up A LOT of one’s time. Although it can be tough to balance all that is required of you, keeping a detailed schedule helps you to stay on top of everything.
Tip #2: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Nursing school is your opportunity to soak in every ounce of learning that you can receive. When given the choice on a clinical site, try choosing somewhere you wouldn’t have expected yourself to be. Surprisingly enough, most nurses end up nowhere near the specialty they had originally planned on working.
Once in your clinical setting, take every opportunity available to you. Ask questions, offer assistance, and become someone the staff looks to first for additional help when needed. There is always something to learn, do, or see as a student and now is your time to take advantage of these experiences. With that being said, get out of your social comfort zone as well! Bellin College has student organizations such as Ambassador’s Club, Student Senate, Bellin Student Nurses Association (BSNA) and numerous others, all of which are extremely welcoming and are a great way to meet other students outside of class.
Tip #3: Take Advantage of Help
Accepting help from others is something I know everyone struggles with. Bellin College offers a huge array of helpful services and I 100% recommend that you take advantage of them! The Student Success Center offers tutoring sessions taught by students who have previously passed the course. In addition, Bellin College faculty are always more than willing to sit down with students to discuss content and exams or practice skills. Please, please, please take advantage of these resources as they will only strengthen your abilities as a nurse! The faculty especially likes to help in any way they can and creating professional relationships with them is always a benefit for your future. (I promise you, they are WAY less intimidating to talk to than you think!)
» Purchase a set of shoes that you will use for clinical and clinical alone. Currently, you are required to wear all white shoes. Most students wear typical Nike tennis shoes or something of the sort. Unless you plan to wear them for years, please do not spend a fortune on these. They will very quickly become dirty and you will be walking miles (yes I said miles) each day in them. If you are looking more long term, I do highly recommend Danskos. These shoes are a bit pricy but hold up very well. Each person has their own opinion on them though, so I would definitely try them out before buying.
» Get yourself a reliable stethoscope. I personally use the Littmann Classic III stethoscope and it works great. Any Littmann or MDF is typically reliable. This will be something you will use throughout your entire time in nursing school as well as after you graduate. A good stethoscope makes a huge difference.
» Your clipboard will become an essential part of your clinical rotations. Amazon has a huge variety of these. Type in “nursing clipboard” and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I recommend the Tribe RN Nursing Clipboard. It has normal vitals, lab values, ABGs, and medication calculations printed on the back; all of which are super helpful while you’re still beginning to learn these during busy clinical days.
» If your clinical instructor, professor, or classmates offers a daily report worksheet to you, TAKE IT. Accumulate and save as many of these spreadsheets as possible. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are printable sheets that are used every day as a nurse. It helps immensely when keeping track of vitals, assessment, meds, tests, therapies, or really anything else that may involve your patient throughout the shift. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to these, and you will quickly learn which layout works best for you. Having worksheets given to you from others who have been there before makes narrowing it down much easier.
» Lastly, the best thing I can tell you is to take care of yourself. Set aside time to do things that you enjoy and don’t let the stress of school take over your life. Make an effort to create friends in nursing school; they will be the people you can relate to most during your college experience. Keep up the motivation; I promise you there IS light at the end of the tunnel! You are headed into a respectful and rewarding career. Know that even on the hardest of days, you are your patient’s biggest advocate, supporter, and their last line of defense. You save lives. You comfort the sick. You cannot expect that to be easy.
Congratulations on picking the GREATEST profession and I wish you the best of luck in your career!
BSN Traditional 2020
The views expressed in this blog entry are her own and are not an endorsement by Bellin College.